Before 2019, Warren Wells had never ridden more than 40 miles on his bike in one day: “no hills, no multi-day trips, no clip in pedals, no lycra jerseys,” as he puts it. But, less than a year after moving to the Bay Area from Los Angeles, Warren was on his bike, setting off on Climate Ride: a five-day, 280 mile fundraising bike ride from Santa Cruz to San Luis Obispo with Team Bike East Bay. How do you get from “no long rides” to riding down the California coastline on a multi-day adventure? In Warren’s words, “you never know what you can do until you do it.”
Warren started testing out biking while living in Baltimore, serving in AmeriCorps. As he was thinking about graduate school, he was also spending more time on his bike. “It really opens your eyes to stuff you don’t see when driving,” says Warren. So he sold his car and decided to go to graduate school in Los Angeles, to make streets better for pedestrians, bike riders, and public transit users. Studying transportation planning during the 2016 presidential election, Warren realized the impact of—and lack of attention on—local politics.
With the goal of empowering advocates on the local level, shortly after moving to the Bay Area, Warren got involved with Bike East Bay. The thought of Climate Ride had been kicking around in the back of Warren’s mind for a while, and after seeing the listing for Bike East Bay’s Climate Ride meet & greet, he decided to check it out. Little did he know, this would be the gateway to reconnecting with old friends, meeting new friends, and much longer rides.
At the meet & greet, Warren saw photos from previous rides, met people who had done it before —some multiple times—and also met people who had never done anything like it before, just like him. He felt it was a good fit, with good people, and a great opportunity to further his ethical goals: supporting organizations doing important work on the local level, and working to combat climate change.
To get ready for the long ride, Warren heard about the Spring Ride Series, a set of rides organized by Bike East Bay that double as training for Climate Ride. “If you do the training series you’ll be fine,” Warren says, “no part of Climate Ride was harder than climbing Mount Diablo with the training team.” Warren had a training plan for the long ride ahead, and some new friends from the meet & greet. There was just one last hurdle to climb before the ride: fundraising.
Warren had never raised money before, so he felt somewhat nervous. He set his goal at $4,200 (in honor of his old ultimate frisbee jersey number), and, with a vow not to procrastinate, sent out his first round of emails before the holidays. Warren quickly found that fundraising had a surprising side effect: it offered the chance to reconnect with friends, former coworkers, and teammates from years ago. “People came out of the woodwork” with donations and notes of support, recalls Warren. He had realized the key component: just ask!
At his goal with a few months to spare, Warren decided to up the ante. Climate Ride staff typically take participants’ gear from location to location by van, but he pledged that if he raised a total of $5,000, he would carry all of his own gear for the entire five-day trip! Between the extra challenge goal and getting together with fellow teammates to drink wine and send fundraising emails, Warren met his updated goal with time to spare.
Training was finished and fundraising was all wrapped up: Warren just had one thing left on his list, the ride itself! The ride through Big Sur was especially gorgeous, Warren recalls, but a one-way section of Highway 1 proved to be surprisingly memorable. After the row of cars in front of them drove ahead, the entire Climate Ride crew biked through, descending down Highway 1, past all the waiting cars going in the opposite direction. “It felt like bike party on the 1.” Warren schemes: “what would it be like if just one day a year the 1 was closed to cars?”
“The riding was as good as I thought it would be,” remembers Warren, but “the people were even cooler.” Each night, different speakers were brought in as part of the evening programming, including musicians, climate advocates, and accessibility activists. Even just meeting other Climate Riders each night—all different ages, doing their own inspiring work in professional and personal lives—“people on Climate Ride…they get it!” Warren says.
Warren’s advice to people considering Climate Ride? Come to the meet & greet! As he says, there’s no reason not to. On the training rides, you’ll meet new people and see the Bay with experienced riders to show you around. “It’s all easier and more meaningful than you think.”